Abolishing Death

Paul responded to false teachings about the resurrection of believers in his second letter to Timothy. Certain voices in the Church were denying this essential truth. “God did not give us a spirit of fear but of a sound mind,” including our anxieties about death. Jesus overcomes death and gives life “through the Gospel.”

The theme of “sound teaching” is prominent in this Letter. The resurrection was a basic element of the forward-looking hope of the early Church. After all, Jesus “abolished death” when God raised him from the dead.

Cemetery Sunrise - Photo by Ayanna Johnson on Unsplash
[Photo by Ayanna Johnson on Unsplash]

In his 
letter to the Corinthians, Paul described the heart of the Gospel that he preached – “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and he was buried, and he was raised on the third day” – (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

The Apostolic message was “sound” teaching and represented the “power of God who saved and called us…according to His purpose and gave us grace in Christ Jesus before the times of the ages.” However, this salvation was only manifested in recent times:

  • God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to the peculiar purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages but has now been manifested through the appearance of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has abolished death and thrown light upon life and incorruptibility, through means of the gospel.” - (2 Timothy 1:9-10).

By “abolish death,” Paul does not mean death no longer occurs. The Greek verb translated as “abolish” does not mean to “destroy” or annihilate something, but to “nullify” it, to make it ineffective, to discharge or invalidate its legal claim (katargeô).

The end of Death, its reality and state, will not occur until the “arrival” or ‘Parousia’ of Jesus. As the author of Hebrews writes, through his death, Jesus “destroyed him that had the dominion of death, that is, the Devil, and delivered them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”

Death still occurs to all men, including believers, but it is incapable of holding faithful disciples. When Jesus returns, he will overthrow Death’s sentence by resurrecting his saints - (1 Corinthians 15:24-28, Hebrews 2:14-18).

Jesus brought life and “immortality” to light (aphtharsia). The Greek noun translated as “immortality” or aphtharsia does not mean “eternal” or denote any sense of timelessness or being without beginning or end. Immortality is the opposite of death, it is deathlessness. That is what the Greek noun means, “DEATH-LESS.

This is not a condition that human souls, spirits, or bodies possess by nature. Immortality was lost when Adam sinned. However, believers will be raised, transformed, and receive immortality when Jesus returns. This will not be the case for all men, only those who are redeemed by his death will be raised to “everlasting life” - (1 Corinthians 15:50-57).

Paul instructed Timothy to “remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel.” The Apostle suffered persecution because he proclaimed this message, and central to it was the proclamation that God raised Jesus from the dead - (2 Timothy 2:8-18).

Paul suffered so the “elect may also obtain the salvation in Christ Jesus with everlasting glory… If we are dead with him, we shall also live with him… If we suffer, we shall also reign with him.”


While death still occurs, it does not have the final word. “Salvation,” resurrection, and “everlasting glory” will be obtained when Jesus returns - (“We will also live with him”).

Paul reminded Timothy of Christ’s past resurrection, the basis of our future resurrection. False teachers were denying the bodily resurrection. He labeled their denials “profane and vain babblings” to be avoided - (1 Corinthians 15:10-20).

It is unclear what these men taught other than denying the future resurrection. The clause more accurately reads, “declaring that the resurrection already came to pass.” Denying resurrection would mean abandoning the fundamental hope of the Gospel and repudiating the foundation of salvation – the Death and Resurrection of Jesus.

Sunrise flowers - Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash
[Photo by Léonard Cotte on Unsplash]

Based on beliefs common in that society, these false teachers probably rejected the idea of bodily resurrection in favor of belief in escape from the physical creation to a disembodied state - (Acts 17:32, 1 Corinthians 15:12).

  • For if the dead are not raised, neither has Christ been raised. Moreover, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins. Then they also that are fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If we have only hoped in Christ in this life, we are of all men most pitiable. But now has Christ been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who sleep” – (1 Corinthians 15:16-20).

That Paul brings up the resurrection so easily when it is tangential to his larger discourse shows how foundational this truth was to the Apostolic Tradition. If the righteous dead are not raised bodily from the dead, they will remain forever in their graves, and our salvation hope becomes null and void.

  • The Death of Death - (The Last Enemy, Death, will be overthrown when Jesus arrives at the end of the age - 1 Corinthians 15:20-25)
  • Final Events - (Paul listed the key events that will occur on or just before the return of Jesus, including the abolishment of Death and the bodily resurrection)
  • Redemption, not Abandonment - (Redemption means the recovery of that which was lost, including the bodily resurrection and the New Creation)

A special song celebrating the Resurrection by Orthodox Christian Chants.

{Published originally on the Letters to the Church website}



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Language of the New Testament